04 Aug Local focus brings national success for Wisconsin career site
MILWAUKEE – Building an Internet company is hard to do well. The business plan needs to be original—hundreds of companies have come and gone because they couldn’t adapt. The product needs to have a market—no one wants to buy something they can get next door. It needs to be funded—without money, it won’t evolve past a single Web address.
But even after putting together a company and carving out a successful niche, the true test for a dot-com company is expansion. Many businesses find it easy to settle into a comfortable market and not budge, unable to jump to a bigger market: state to regional, regional to national, national to international. Only a few companies have been able to take that step, among them the employment site LocalCareers—which has expanded from the state-centered WisconsinJobs into a network covering all 50 states.
LocalCareers.com—making the Internet work for work
LocalCareers was conceived by Brian Weis in 1998, when he came off the success of building Recruiters Network two years before. Weis, who had worked in IT recruiting and staffing, saw the development of the online job market grow as advantages over newspaper ads became obvious: Internet advertisements were cheaper and easier to alter, and they could reach a broader section of the population. Larger businesses such as Monster and HotJobs looked at a national scope for employment, but Weis saw a different market to fill—the need for local jobs.
From its beginning as WisconsinJobs.com, the site was designed to address two separate needs—those of job seekers looking for accurate information, and those of employers looking for quick results. The site offers hundreds of thousands of jobs from employers all across the region. Opportunities can be narrowed by type of job or location. Job seekers can also post their resume and take advantage of career resources provided by the site.
Employers who use the system can use the site’s screening questions to get as much information about a candidate as possible and weed out the unqualified ones. The site’s technology is designed with maximum efficiency in mind, with tracking software that stores resumes in Microsoft Word format to eliminate cutting and pasting of data. Companies are able to work on a smaller state-by-state level they cannot get with larger firms, importing job information straight to the site to eliminate multiple-site deadlocks on posting information.
“When recruiting for local positions, there’s no option for relocation … so the response is more selective,” said Mike Prelewicz, a subcontractor and recruiter for GE in North America. “I look at it from a customer perspective—they can tailor positions for me.”
A cyclical process for expansion
The localized development of WisconsinJobs gave it a strong base. This soon presented opportunities for expansion. Wisconsin-based companies such as American Family Insurance were impressed with the results but were large enough to need coverage for branches around the Midwest and the rest of the nation.
Weis took a gamble in 1997. He emptied his funds to purchase a set of job domains for Texas, Oregon, Arizona,and Washington, incorporating them into the network WisconsinJobs had started. The gamble paid off within a few months as the newly expanded LocalCareers began to turn a profit, and with this success there was little question where to divert the new profits. Since then, by putting profits back into expansion, LocalCareers has expanded into all 50 states.
“The development, expansion and diversity was a direct result from client need and feedback,” Weis said of the move through the country. “Our site has evolved through the needs of the client in the listing of business jobs.”
Surviving in troubled times
Evolution soon became key to survival. The infamous dot-com crash of 2000 sent online businesses into a tailspin. The employment world was hit hard, as many of the major corporations had initiated what Weis called a “hiring freeze” following Sept. 11, 2001. The accompanying recession meant unemployment rose and recruiting budgets shrank, and many online career sites could not function.
“Most Internet businesses were destined to fail when their exit strategy was to make money/go public,” Weis said. “It was crazy … I shook my head daily as I saw business models revolve around Web sites trying to sell dog food below cost.”
LocalCareers however was not one of those unfortunates to fall prey to the collapsing market, and even managed to take advantage of the climate created by the recession. Since the budget for hiring tightened, companies began to look for better candidates for lower cost, which meant that LocalCareers’ unlimited, all-day job offerings for $500 were more appealing than using hundreds of classified sections across the country.
Rapid turnover of dot-coms made domain names available at bargain prices. In the poor employment climate of 2001-2002, LocalCareers acquired ten “state-jobs.com” domain names around the country. It acquired seven more in the last two years.
With the financial recovery, the business generated profits of more than half a million dollars in the last year. With all states covered under the system, they have begun to expand into more specific avenues of employment such as diversity-oriented and niche career sites, keeping the company right on pace for a projected growth of 35 percent by the year’s end, over last year’s 25 percent rise.
The system remains as popular with employers as ever.
“When we advertise [with LocalCareers] we get a better set of responses … the flow of candidates has really worked for us. ” said Vince Manzara of Contact Staffing, who has used LocalCareers for three years to advertise technology and professional positions. “We really get the bang for the buck.”